Sunday, May 15, 2011

Growing Pains

The warm weather today reminded me of a time about seven years ago when I decided I should carry on a family gardening tradition - planting a seedling from my Grandfather's plum tree.

The seeds from this special tree came over from Italy with my Grandfather. At least that's how I remember hearing it. My Grandfather is no longer here, but his plum tree lives on in my parent's yard where my father started it from a seed. My brother also grew his own Grandpa tree. Now it was my turn.

On a trip to Wisconsin I eagerly picked up my little tree offspring from my brother. I carefully protected this piece of history on the six hour drive back to Saint Paul.

Once home I told my youngest son Nick that we would be planting a special family tree. He watched with his big, four-year-old eyes as I selected the perfect sunny spot in the front yard where the whole neighborhood could admire the plum as it grew into it's full glory.

I spent the next arduous hours digging the optimum sized hole. Nick played on the lawn nearby as I fertilized, mulched and prayed to the Farmer's Almanac for continued fair weather.

At last it was time to place the small tree in the hole. I meticulously filled in the dirt around the roots. Added a stick with soft ties to hold it upright and a circle of chickenwire to protect it from ravenous bunnies. I was sure Grandpa was smiling down from the heavens.

The final step was to water my masterpiece. I asked Nicky to watch the tree while I fetched my Mother's Day gift - a personally painted watering can from my sons. As I rounded the house with my full watering can I saw Nick also holding a full watering can. It was the orange plastic one from his sandbox. In a slow motion sequence that rivaled the Matrix I watched Nick raise his watering can above the chickenwire to give the little tree a drink.

The water started to pour. Nick dropped the watering can. The can fell. I ran. The can fell on the tree. The tree broke in two. I screeched. Nick froze.

At this point I made one of the better decisions of my life. I looked at Nick, reached out, plucked the watering can off of the destroyed tree and flung it with all my might over the fence into the neighbor's yard. The alternative would have been Nick sailing over the fence into the neighbor's yard. I chose wisely.

This is a cautionary tale for all of us who want to plant things in hope of seeing them grow. Sometimes you have to cut your losses. Sometimes you need to see the bigger picture. Sometimes you have to remember that your children are the most important seeds you plant. No wait, always you have to remember that children are the most important seeds you plant.

Then, you throw the watering can into the neighbor's yard.

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